Scanning the British Tube

You may have the mistaken impression that British TV is all “Downton Abbey” and “The Office” – the kind of consistency in excellence we could only hope to replicate in the states.

Actually, their TV is full of just as much bad stuff, too. Maybe more of it than ever. The long-running soaps like “Coronation Street” and “East Enders” are so crusted over with nostalgia and pathos they’re about as bad as American daytime TV.

There seems to be a whole lot of quiz shows these days, which have no other point than to bring out a lot of odd, obscure facts and then have a panel of odd, obscure comedians comment on them for a full half hour’s of entertainment.

While “The Hills” and its offshoots, with their glossy, pretend look at how beautiful people really act, seems to have run its course in the states, such shows are on the upswing in the UK, where the nation gets clued into trumped-up situations among young people few could care about.

The one I saw was “Made in Chelsea” but there is a “Jersey Shore” variant called “Geordie Shore,” a canceled one called “Desperate Scousewives” from Liverpool, “The Only Way is Essex,” returning for its fifth season; and a new one “Surrey Heights” from Croydon.

It was telling that late at night, there were two competing shows about drunk Brits on holiday, a sort of Hooligans Gone Wild that few in the UK can be proud of.

“X-Factor” and “Britain’s Got Talent” looks almost exactly like the U.S. versions, except of course for the accents and the judges’ panels.

On “Britain’s Got Talent,” the sixth season panel has been increased to four, with singer Alesha Dixon, actress and “presenter” Amanda Holden, David Walliams (the tall half of “Little Britain”!) and sometimes Carmen Electra (known for her exacting taste in British entertainment) joining Simon Cowell, who seemed to be in the paper more than the prime minister.

Seems that a new unauthorized biography excerpted in one tabloid (and covered reverently by other papers) revealed he had a fling with fellow British “X Factor” judge Danii Minouge, an alleged indiscretion so minor as to not even cause a yawn.

Just starting over there is “The Voice UK” which copies the Dutch (and U.S.) series with the same format and a judging panel of Will.i.am, Sir Tom Jones (!), Jessie J and former boy band member Danny O’Donoghue.

With no “Pop Idol” on UK TV since 2004 (when it was replaced by “X Factor”), they’re actually importing the current season of “American Idol,” which is kind of embarrassing unless you count that they’re also advertising the starts of such U.S. series as “Hart of Dixie.”

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